Meaningful Play 2016 runs October 20 – 22!


*** Six thought-provoking keynotes from leaders in academia and industry, including:

– Jacquelyn Ford Morie, Founder, CEO All These Worlds and CTO The Augmented Traveler Corp
– Richard Lemarchand, Associate Chair, University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts
– Isabela Granic, Professor and Chair, Developmental Psychopathology, Radboud University Nijmegen
– Halcyone “Cy” Wise, Owlmancer, Owlchemy Labs
– Michealene Cristini Risley, Human rights warrior, entrepreneur, storyteller
– Elizabeth LaPensée, Indigenous Game Designer, Michigan State University

*** Seven breakout speaker sessions featuring prominent members of industry and academia, including:

– The Nature and Boundaries of Play Science by Dr. Stuart Brown, M.D., psychiatrist, clinical researcher, founder of the National Institute for Play
– Using the Fundamental Pyramid to Create Engaging Games by Jared Riley
– History Shaping Design by Julia Keren-Detar
– Affection Games: The Casual World of Flirting, Hugging, Kissing and Making Love by Lindsay Grace
– Game Design and Tourism: Two Fields that Play Well Together! by Elizabeth Lawley
– VR Experiences for Kids: Design Best Practices by Tobi Saulnier
– Verby Nouns: A Casual Well Played by Drew Davidson

*** Over 70 peer-reviewed paper presentations presenting the latest game research coming out of academia, on a various topics such as:

– Gamification
– Beyond Just Crunching Numbers: Games for Learning Math and Science
– Thinking Differently about Games 4 Learning
– Games, Ethics and Rhetoric
– Classroom is a Game: Technological and Educational Insights for Games for Learning
– Understanding Games through the Lens of Narrative
– Gaming for the Sake of Healthy Mind and Body
– The World of MMOs
– Gender and Games
– Motivation, Engagement, and Enjoyment during Gameplay
– Modding: Design and Analysis
– Is it the Age of Dragon Age?
– Game Mechanics and Design Principles
– Game Evaluation
– Games: Legal, Economic, and Policy Insights
– Social Gaming and Collaborative Play
– Games and Data: Between Design and Research
– Observe, Listen, and Learn: Studying Games Using Ethnographic Methodology
– Innovation in Game Design
– Game Design and Designers

*** 10 exciting panel and roundtable discussions, including:

– Teaching Game Design to Various Audiences
– Finding Meaning in Emergent Play and What That Means for Design
– Passages and Pedagogies: Classroom Applications for the Twine Platform
– Meaningful Play Learning Postmortems
– Growing the Game Industry in Michigan: 2016 Update
– Playing with the News
– Keeping the Game a Game: Merging Evaluative Measures with Pedagogical Aims in a Foreign Language Video Game
– Meaningful Play Game Postmortems
– Metaphor and Transformational Game Design
– So What? An Inductive Approach to Developing Models for Serious Game Assessment

*** Eight workshops, including:

– First Person Researcher
– The Transformational Framework: A Pre-production Process for Teams Working on Transformational Games
– The Radical, Inclusive Approach to Learning to Code
– Using Non-digital Play for Facilitation of Learning Goals
– Twine Workshop and Game Jam
– Serious Games and Exercises Typology Workshop
– Integrating Video and Board Games into Classrooms
– Writing and Reviewing for Publication in a Scientific Journal

*** A poster session featuring 21 late-breaking advances and work-in-progress reports from ongoing research or design work

*** An exciting exhibition of over 50 innovative digital and non-digital games!!!

*** Six Special Events

– Conference Party – Chance to mix and mingle with conference goers at the Opening Reception, view late breaking research at the Poster Session, and play “meaningful” games at the Game Exhibition (appetizers and drinks provided).

– Industry/Student Meet’n’Greet – This is a great chance for students to meet with some of the companies attending Meaningful Play and pass on resumes. It is a great opportunity for companies to find fresh talent.

– Pure Michigan Game Exhibition and Celebration – During this energetic game exhibition and celebration, you can play games; meet and mingle with several Michigan-based game developers; and enjoy yourself with drinks and appetizers.

– Conference Wrap Up – Enjoy the provided lunch during the closing keynote with Elizabeth LaPensée, Indigenous Game Designer and professor at Michigan State University.

– Game Room – Build meaningful connections with your fellow conference goers while playing a digital or board game in the Meaningful Play Game Room.

Don’t miss you opportunity to attend Meaningful Play 2016. Meaningful Play is an interdisciplinary academic conference that explores the potential of games to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade in meaningful ways.

The conference takes place October 20 – October 22 in East Lansing, Michigan USA and is hosted by Michigan State University.

The conference is for game designers, researchers, and students. The two primary themes of the conference are “exploring meaningful applications of games” and “issues in designing meaningful play”. The first theme includes an examination of games (of all types) from primarily an academic research perspective. The second theme focuses on much more practical knowledge from the front-line of actual design, development, and use of games for meaningful purposes.

For more details and to register, visit:

Become an Awesome Online Serious Game Graduate Certificate Student

(The deadline to apply for fall 2016 admission is June 15.)

I love teaching online serious game graduate certificate classes because the “students” are diverse and brilliant teachers, government agency and business people, doctoral or MA students, and professional game designers.  Our students use the games and user research they create for class in their professional lives.  Scroll down to see the semester-long game design projects from MI830 in spring 2016.

Consider applying for this program – as instructors we will work with you to ensure that the projects you do advance your personal serious game learning goals.  Email me (Professor Carrie Heeter, to discuss what the program can do for you.

​TECH TREK is a 4-player card game designed to ​excite middle school students (especially girls) about pursuing technology related careers, so that they carry this excitement throughout their education and hopefully pursue STEM ​(Science Technology Engineering Math) ​careers in the future. Our game is suitable for classrooms, is easy to put together and to play, and is a free engaging activity designed specifically for learning.
The game 1) show​s​ that different majors help prepare students for specific STEM careers​; 2) e​xpose​s​ students to appealing role models in STEM careers​; and 3) ​s​hows how different STEM careers help change the world.
​WELL SOURCED is a librarian-facilitated card game that provokes information literacy discussions and promotes information literacy skills in students new to academic research.  It can be played using either computer labs with research databases or smartphones in a more informal setting.

​GREAT LAKES INVADERS is a card game developed for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that pits players in a contest to find and report incursions of invasive alien plant species. While it is intended as a fun, and sometimes silly, game, the species highlighted in the game are very real, and the reporting tool is based on a real invasive species reporting tool.

EAT AT HOME introduces urban first and second graders in Taiwan who don’t normally see the original form of what they eat to local food (crops), and raises their awareness of the relationship between local food and the environment.​

THE LOST BOOK is a light-hearted highly social tabletop game designed to assess the developing creativity, empathy, and literary knowledge of undergraduate English majors.

SUPPORT THE FRONT LINE is a game for kindergarten to third graders to help students share and learn different strategies for organizing things as well as realize the value of keeping things organized.

Players in the MARBLE RACING GAME will learn how to effectively work in a team using fundamental concepts of cooperation, communication and working towards a common goal.  Not only will they know what these concepts are but they will fully understand why they are important.  Players should then be able to use these teamwork concepts in future projects. The game can be played with any group of people, ages 13 and up. It was developed to be played in a classroom but can also work well in a corporate setting as professional development.

SIGNALS is a game designed to help people become more aware of the nonverbal signals they give to others, and learn to talk to themselves to present, communicate, and act with confidence and pride.
ESCAPE FROM ​TENOCHTITLAN, a semester-long language and culture game, incorporates two levels of play: a “Dungeons & Dragons” style table-top game, and team-building exercises or puzzles. On the first level, players must communicate each action their character takes in the target language using present tense. Each action must be a simple, compound, or complex sentence, or use language previously covered. Items are earned playing “Las Herramientas”, a vocabulary quiz in which players must successfully identify a vocabulary word in English or Spanish in order to earn items they can and must use in the game. Different areas on the game map are marked and connected to challenges, and can only begin when the first player to encounter them successfully answers a question dealing with conjugation, vocabulary, or grammar.
The second level of play are various challenges informed by Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), Total Physical Response, Communicative Learning Theory,Task-based Learning, Discovery Learning and Reciprocal Teaching, where players must work together to accomplish specific tasks using the target language.
ALGEBRAWL brings an element of play to math classrooms ​as 6th, ​7th and 8th graders apply and grow their working knowledge of basic the rules of algebra in this unique ​competitive ​equation game.

TreeTop=NewWeb is a 3-dimensional board game co-designed by a serious game graduate certificate student and her 8 year old son for elementary school age children and their families designed to create cautious appreciation for spiders.  While their spider game pieces climb a series of ramps heading up a tree, children will learn about different species of spiders, distinguish between myths & truths about spiders, become familiar with safety around spiders, act out special spider abilities, and even build their own spider web.

RESEARCH ON THE ROLE OF GAME DESIGN ELEMENTS IN ETHICS GAMES An education PhD student wrote a paper analyzing design opportunities for creating ethics games that won’t be rejected by players as “just a game,” examining qualitative data he had collected observing players of an ethics games and identifying different elements of game design that affecting player perceptions of ethical significance.

Games and Meaningful Play in our PhD Program

The Media and Information Studies PhD program at Michigan State University seeks outstanding students who wish to join a unique interdisciplinary program of study at the intersection of the social sciences and technical systems. The faculty develop and apply research about media and society and evolving information and communication technologies to important problems. The program engages students to become active scholars, teachers, and leaders in the media and information fields.

Students and faculty attending the MIS PhD Symposium

Students and faculty attending the MIS PhD Symposium

The PhD program is offered jointly by the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, the School of Journalism, and the Department of Media and Information, the PhD program gives students access to fifty PhD faculty with research interests that span important current and emerging issues in media and information studies. Students get involved early on in projects, complementing theoretical coursework with hands-on research experiences.

Particularly strong research interests of our faculty include:
• Internet Studies
• Social media and social computing
• Human-computer interaction
• Socio technical systems and collective intelligence
• Management information systems
• ICT and health
• Information and Communication and Development (ICTD)
• Games and meaningful play
• Media effects on individuals and society
• Media, information and Internet policy

The deadline for applications for the 2016 cohort is January 1, 2016. In addition, we invite applications throughout the year as we accept students into the PhD program on a rolling admissions process. Steps to apply are detailed at

All of our current students are supported by graduate teaching and research assistantships with generous stipends of $2000+ per month, tuition remission, and health benefits. University fellowships, dissertation completion fellowships, summer research fellowships, and stipends for travel to academic conferences round out the resources available for students.

Over three-fourths of our graduates are hired into faculty positions at four-year institutions at graduation. They are found in departments of mass media, journalism, advertising, public relations, and information studies across the United States and around the world. Others go on to careers in public service and business.

The 2015 QS World University rankings place MSU 6th in the world and 5th in North America in communication and media studies. The National Communication Association (NCA), in their most recent doctoral program reputation study, ranked MSU’s Ph.D. programs as No. 1 in educating researchers in communication technology, and in the top four in mass communication. Michigan State University ranked third in frequency of faculty publication in communication in a study reported in The Electronic Journal of Communication in 2012.

East Lansing and the greater Lansing area offer a vibrant cultural environment with easy access to a variety of outdoor activities and the scenic beauty of our state year-round. Blending urban and sub-urban living, it is one of the nation’s most affordable places to complete a doctoral program in media and information studies.

To learn more, see our web page, at:

Serious Game Graduate Certificate Information Session

Michigan State University (MSU) is holding an online information session on our online Serious Game Design (SGD) Graduate Certificate Program.

Date: Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Time: 8pm (Eastern Time Zone)

Michigan State University offers a carefully crafted three-course, transcriptable, university graduate certificate in serious games which can be completed either fully online or on campus through hybrid courses which meet in the classroom with an online component.

The program is designed to give game designers, business people, teachers, and researchers graduate-level insight into serious game theories, serious game design, and human-centered design.

Our online graduate certificate students include game industry professionals, fortune 500 and small business professionals in many different fields, museum designers, corporate trainers, university professors, and K-12 teachers with an interest in serious games and a desire to add additional knowledge and skills in this important domain.

Example board games for MI 830 Final Projects

Example board games for MI 830 Final Projects

Our graduate certificate students also include MSU Media & Information graduate students, other MSU graduate students such as MAET (Educational Technology) MA students, and doctoral students at other universities who are interested in serious games and gamification.

The certificate program is available to students enrolled in any MSU graduate degree program.  The certificate program is also available to non-MSU students as a stand-alone, 3-course graduate certificate program.   All three graduate certificate courses may be taken either as an on-campus hybrid course (section 001) or a fully online course (section 730).

The application deadline for Spring 2016 admission is November 15.

The information session is online (voice, chat and video), with faculty and students from MSU to answer questions.

For more Web-based information on the MSU Serious Game Graduate Certificate Program, please visit

You can also email the graduate certificate program director, Professor Carrie Heeter (

Serious Game Alumni #10: Bryan Novak

4965657af186b9092c7a96976ffe881c_XLBryan Novak’s time in the Master’s program and serious game certificate was marked by many interesting events and games. During his time here, he created an endless runner about harassment towards woman in the gaming community, a cool action platformer inspired by Megaman Legends, and a series of brain training games as part of team at the GEL Lab to help rehabilitate children in Uganda who were recovering from HIV and malaria. Bryan even got to travel to Africa and test it on location!

Novak also met Craig Tucker, the CEO of Tucknologies, a web design and software development company in Lansing. The two took TC 830, Foundations of Serious Games, where they co-created an anti-bullying game with another student. Now working as Chief Technology Officer at Tucknologies, Novak is in charge of selecting development platforms for projects, performing task estimations, delegating work to interns, and programming as well. As CTO, Novak has had a chance to work for OIC Movies, an American Sign Language company, and Compass Health and Technology Institute, who provide professional training for nurses and veterans, as well as developing software for Wealth and Wisdom.

“We’ve been fortunate to connect with people who also want to help make life better for others and the software we develop for them helps make those dreams a reality.”

While the company doesn’t exactly focus on games, Novak believes “we have been able to make use of a lot of the design theories and gamification techniques. On some of our more interactive applications, we try to find ways to encourage user participation by reinforcing positive behavior.” As a student in the serious game program, Novak explored the sphere of violence in video games and harassment of players in online games. Recalling his favorite course, TC 497, Game Design Studio, Novak says “I got to work with a really awesome team and we really wanted to push ourselves to make it a great learning experience as well as a fantastic game.” “

As project lead and designer [in TC 497], I learned a lot about managing time, breaking down and delegating tasks, getting regular updates, and coordination with the team when it all came together. It made for an incredibly creative and rewarding experience.”

A screenshot from Novak's TC497 game, Mechabots

A screenshot from Novak’s TC497 game, Mechabots

Piggy Scramble, an indie game in the making by Novak and several other alums.

Piggy Scramble!

On the side, Novak and several other MSU alums are working on a small indie game, Piggy Scramble. While most of his technical skills were gained as an undergrad at UW-Stevens Point, Novak says “Nearly all of my design knowledge came from my two years at MSU.” He hopes to put these skills to work, not only as CTO, but in Piggy Scramble and several other game projects.


“I’ve found that tabletop RPGs are a fantastic way to learn about game design and how players respond to those design. A lot of systems out there make for very fluid play, letting you adapt to your players as they adapt to you.”

As far as words of wisdom for current and future serious game students, Novak says it’s important to do task estimations and record hours. “At any job,” he says, “you will hear the words ‘How long will that take?’ Practice now so you have an answer then.” Novak is also positive about the present as a great time to be making all types of games. He says “It’s become a much more accessible medium to both develop for and to be appreciated by the public. Just keep making, testing, breaking, revising, patching, upgrading, sharing, and playing.”